For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department were locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.
Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.
On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, taking the first steps toward flying a small drone as part of a one-year pilot program.
Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to adopt the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates and others for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance or fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies.
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